by Anna St. Clair
With Music For Dogs, Gardens & Villa show off their changing sound. Hailing from Santa Barbra, the band’s previous music has been run-of-the-mill indie-rock. Since 2011 they’ve released two albums, including 2014’s Dunes and a self-titled debut in 2011. While their previous sound has been electronic, yet warm, indie-pop, Music For Dogs highlights their new complex and higher-level sound.
Music For Dogs begins with the disorienting “Maximize Results.” The 80’s style fade-in leads into twists and turns of warped synths. The song climaxes with frantic piano chords darting between every octave on the keyboard as Chris Lynch belts out “Everything is endless.” You’ll feel anxious and uncomfortable, but also the unstoppable urge to dance. It’s a beautiful raucous and the musical equivalent of a mad-scientist experiment run amok.
Listening to Gardens & Villa’s repertoire, it’s not hard to tell that Music For Dogs was made in 2015. There’s a big influence from 80’s pop–rock as well as the psychedelic revival of Tame Impala, especially on “Fixations.” “Fixations” begins with psychedelic synths, guitar feedback and layered vocals that The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix invented and Tame Impala has made trendy again. Like Kevin Parker, Chris Lynch sounds like he’s put his voice through the John Lennon voice changer. While “Fixations” is a blast to listen to, and will probably prove to be a popular track, it isn’t much more than a Tame Impala imitation.
In “General Research,” the lyrics tackle a tough subject, how science and curiosity can be easily corrupted by corporate interest. Listeners are pulled in with a mathematical, electric hook before industrial instrumentals create a dystopian atmosphere. The strong guitar riffs give a steady rhythm and nice depth to this alt-rock jam. If “Fixations” was influenced by the groovy ‘60’s, “General Research” has skipped over a decade and landed in the 80’s. “General Research” is where Gardens & Villa’s music and lyrics come together to produce quality sound with bold lyrics and strong beats.
Along with the modern world and technology, the lyrics address the new phoniness and disconnect in the age of social networks. Of course this gives Gardens & Villa the perfect opportunity to take shots at the selfie. Lyrics on “Everybody” lament: “Everybody wants the new you, no one cares who you are/Taking pictures of the new you, watching you from afar.” While complaining about the downfall of society in the internet-age is about as trendy as snapping a selfie for the ‘gram, the lyrics on “Everybody” do explore how social media tends to split our personality in two.
Other songs on the album that stand out include “Alone in the City,” a tenderhearted ballad that gets Chris Lynch to really stretch his pipes. And “Express” nicely blends 80’s bass groves with modern alternative guitar riffs. With poignant lyrics and creative instrumentals, Gardens & Villa show how much they can do on Music For Dogs.
Music For Dogs is out on August 21, 2015